Friday, February 03, 2006

Bush tells Americans not to fear global competition

[Clearly Bush is in another reality, as millions of technologists and others in the USA have either taken lower paying non-tech jobs or are out of work so long that they are no longer counted among the unemployed (a totally inaccurate number that the government constantly readjusts to suit their needs).

Bush tells Americans not to fear global competition

By Tabassum Zakaria

MAPLEWOOD, Minnesota (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Thursday said Americans should not fear global competition from rising economic powers like China and India, and called on Congress to allow more foreign workers to fill high-tech jobs in the United States.

In a trip to the Midwest Bush expanded on the election-year theme set in his State of the Union address that America must maintain its competitive edge in a global economy. He has proposed a program to support research and development in new technologies, and improve science and math education.

To fill vacant high-tech jobs in the United States, Bush called on Congress to lift the current limit on H-1B visas that allow foreign workers to get jobs in the United States.

"The problem is, is that Congress has limited the number of H-1B visas that can come and apply for a job," Bush said in a speech at 3M, which makes products such as office supplies Scotch tape and Post-it notes.

"I think it's a mistake not to encourage more really bright folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being filled here in America, to limit their number," Bush said. "So I call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable and raise that cap."

Congress in 2005 capped at 65,000 the number of H-1B visas, a third of the 195,000 allowed during the technology boom. Bush did not say by how much he wanted the limit lifted.

U.S. employers use the visas to recruit foreigners for jobs in medicine, engineering, education, research and programming, among other fields.

A tech-industry official said Bush's statement was a significant step up from the administration's past position.

"He's been supportive, but he hasn't specifically addressed the numbers like he has today," said Jeff Lande, a senior vice president at the Information Technology Association of America.


Bush said Americans should not fear competition because as wealth spreads overseas, there will be growth in demand for U.S. products. At the same time he acknowledged that there was some feeling of "uncertainty" as they see jobs moving abroad.

"It's important for us not to lose our confidence in changing times; it's important for us not to fear competition, but welcome it," Bush said.

Bush is proposing a $5.9 billion "American Competitiveness Initiative" that includes $1.3 billion in new federal funding and an additional $4.6 billion in research and development tax incentives. The program aims to support science research and improve math and science education.

He also touched upon other themes from his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, including the need to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to say to the American people when this research (on alternative fuels) is complete, that the United States is on our way to no dependence on oil from the Middle East."

Bush is hoping his election-year agenda will help provide a route for Republican victory in the November congressional and Senate races where the control of Congress is at stake.

Bush made his speech on Thursday in Minnesota where Republicans have targeted the Senate race for the seat of incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton who is retiring.

Republicans have recruited Rep. Mark Kennedy for the race. Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County Attorney, is favored to win the primary in September and take on Kennedy.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan, and Andy Sullivan in Washington)